Saturday, August 7, 2010

How Roy Hodgson’s Liverpool will be different from Rafa’s.

This was first posted on


This piece is on a topic that at first glance may seem unimportant. That was my first instinct too. But then I thought about it, and realized that even though we have just begun with Roy Hodgson, the signs of things to come can be seen.

Yesterday night’s game between Liverpool and FK Rabotnicki in the Europa League qualifier 2nd leg was the first time I saw the Reds in action this season. It was the first time, I saw Roy Hodgson’s Liverpool in action. After 5 years and hundreds of games of Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool later, I had been accustomed to see a certain pattern whenever Liverpool played.

When Rafa Benitez was removed, I was disappointed. I really loved the man, especially how he stood up to the owners. Onto matters on the pitch, he was a typical new generation continental manager. Rafa Benitez believed more in strategies and preparations over the flair and spontaneity of the players. His belief in caution before any experimenting was religious. He was good at what he thought, and there is no way his controversial press conferences makes him a bad manager. He is one of the best managers in the world, 7th place finish or not.

So when Roy Hodgson was appointed the new manager, ahead of fancier names like Kenny Dalglsih, Manuel Pellegrini and Frank Riijkard, I did not really know what to expect. I was still unhappy over the removal of Benitez and the madness of the hierarchy in club affairs, and wasn’t entirely convinced that Roy was the man. But as every Liverpool fan in the land, it was our duty to back the manager. He deserved that. And hence, that is what we all did.

I was waiting all along to see how different everything will be from now on. I started warming up to Roy Hodgson in the first couple of weeks of pre-season. His interviews and press conferences were typically blunt. Rafa had a template ready to certain questions. Roy said it like he saw it. He was honest enough about the uncertainty regarding the futures of Gerrard and Torres. He even went on to accept a Ronaldo-esque bid would probably mean Torres leaving.


And then to the first game I saw. Trust me; the changes were small but unbelievably prominent.

Dani Pacheco had just come back a days earlier from his exploits for Spain’s U-19 team. He is an 19 year old rookie. Joe Cole had played for half a game in the last many months. There was no way Rafa, the perfectionist that he was, would make them play 90 minutes. Roy had no hesitation in doing so. Martin Kelly, in his 2nd start teamed up with Dani Pachecho on the left. Two rookies, allowed to express themselves. In the previous regime, a senior- pro would be there to help the junior out. Little changes like I said.

In the previous regime, the first movement on the bench would always take place around the 65th minute. The first substitution always took place a few minutes after that. Irrespective of how the game was poised. (Apart from a few cases, most famous of which was Didi Hamann coming on as the half time sub at Istanbul). Yesterday, Roy made his 2nd change, before 65.

Rafa Benitez was someone who was never satisfied. He wanted more. Gerrard used to say in interviews that a pat on the back meant so much because it was so rare. I had gotten used to that line of thought. And then after yesterday’s game when Liverpool could have scored over 10 goals, when Roy was asked whether he was happy with the performance, here was his reply.

“It’s enough. One more (goal) than the opposition is always enough. I am perfectly satisfied”.

There are the changes. No two managers are similar, but from what I see, these two in question are opposite poles. Roy is typically English. Direct. It is still early days but I believe this trend will continue. Maybe that is what Liverpool needed. A low profile, wheeler-dealer type of a manager, but strong enough to make his own mark on the team.

We will see a lot more youngsters thrust into the action. We will see spontaneous decision making. We will have a lot more blunt interviews.

Liverpool are going through a transition. The new manager is very different from the previous one. How I wish I’d be able to say that for the owners as well.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Once bitten, twice shy : My take on the Liverpool takeover saga.

(This piece was first posted at


At the end of a storm, there is a golden sky.

These famous words from Liverpool’s famous anthem, has become a prayer for the fans. Last season’s spectacular free fall, especially after being 4 points away from the title in 2009, qualifies as a storm that has taken the wind out of the football club. Not just on the field played a part, events off the field were more distressing.

As the world cup got over, and pre-season began, uncertainty was the only constant in the club. Then the good news started trickling in. The new manager landed Joe Cole, a coup. The heart and soul of the team, Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres committed themselves to Liverpool. And then, news of potential movement in the process of selling the club appeared. Which looked good in the beginning. Promising.

And here is where all the fans must stop. And not get carried away. Caution!!!!

For the fans, so easily cheated last time when Hicks and Gillet took over after many convenient lies, there is no way they can dissect and analyse the bids from their homes. How the people in charge failed to see past the lies, lies and more lies last time the club was sold was unbelievable. Yes Hicks and Gillet were wealthy, but a google search would tell you what their track record of owning sports teams were. Terrible. At this point of time therefore, the fans are hoping, and praying that the men in charge, show half as much passion that they have, for one of the greatest clubs in the world.

Lets look at the stories of the main bids that have come through.

Keneth Huang’s reported interest is exactly the type of thing Gillet and Hicks were born to oppose. The owners have made it clear that their sole intention is to earn a major profit. This declaration of intent has to be the only time they have spoken the truth. The reported takeover plan focuses on buying out the loan and using the resulting leverage to pressurize and oust the owners and not give them the parting profit they undeservingly expect. The source of funds for this bid is unclear now, but the fact Huang has bypassed the two owners in negotiations so far, is something that would delight the Anfield faithful. Reports suggest that this offer could be the best, as it would practically have the backing of China, along with massive scope for major deals by entering into the massive Chinese market, which is yet to be fully tapped.

Whether the Chinese are bidding for us because we wear all red, is up for debate. :P

The other player, Syrian Yahya Kirdi, has announced that he is in the final stages of talks and that a price has been decided. With whom? Yes George Gillet. Reason enough to distrust him? That’s probably going too far, but no Liverpool fan would be disagreeing with it at the moment. That is the amount of distrust the fans have. The fact that Kirdi is also a good friend of Gillet Junior doesn’t help. Many suggest that this bid and the public statement is a stalling tactic, aimed at delaying the potential Huang takeover. Only time will tell, but like I said, anything with close proximity to the owners just doesn’t sound good enough.

: If George Gillet says it’s a good deal, IT IS DEFINITELY NOT A GOOD DEAL.


Usual stalling tactics apart, it wont be surprising if things get dirty. Hicks and Gillet might pay their way through false articles etc about the individuals or companies they don’t want to sell to. We don’t know, plus we cant know. Isnt it justified for fans to be cynical in such an environment?

Martin Broughton is a reputed professional. He was brought in to oversee the sale. Christian Purslow is the CEO. And more importantly a vote in the board. Both of them, at the end of the day, were handpicked by the owners. Cynical again, yes, but how unfair is to criticize the fans for not trusting anyone remotely linked with the Americans. The truth however is, the fans have to trust them. Because they don’t have a choice. The club is at their mercy.

The best bid might not be the highest bid. From what has been gathered through the media, the Kirdi offer seems to be the highest, and hence unsurprisingly finds support from the owners. But whether they will have the resources for sustainable investment in the long run is suspect. There is a sense of caution here because in 2007, Gillet and Hicks did exactly this. They had a sizable offer accepted, but dint have anything to fulfill the promises. The stadium completion date incidentally, was August 2010.

This reminds me of our old manager. Rafa Benitez. One of the reasons for which I was sad to see him leave was him seeming to stand up to the management. In a way, he was representing us. This doesn't hide the on field disasters, but he looked as if he was fighting the devils. Thats why i loved him.

On another topic, I have always been someone old fashioned. I do not like situations like these where the fans, the ones who make your club, are effectively as good as non existent. It is too much business. Too much.

The news of Gerrard and Torres committing are welcome, but however important that might be, the main story is yet to break. Gerrard and Torres’ presence would affect the next few years. The new owners, will write Liverpool’s future. Way beyond those few years.

Once bitten, twice shy, is not a cliché for nothing.

P.S. And remember. ONE AND ONLY RULE TO BE FOLLOWED: If George Gillet says it’s a good deal, IT IS DEFINITELY NOT A GOOD DEAL.